Tahini — Going For A Sweet Spin

Tender, buttery shortbread made with tahini.

Tender, buttery shortbread made with tahini.


We use tahini liberally in hummus and salad dressings.

But why not take it for a spin in a sweet preparation?

After all, peanut butter swings both ways, in sweet and in savory dishes. With tahini being ground up sesame seeds, it has a beguiling nuttiness that also makes it quite versatile.

“Tahini Shortbread Cookies” does it justice in sandy, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery cookies that have the merest whisper of sweetness.


The recipe is from “Soframiz” (Ten Speed Press, 2016) by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick of Sofra Bakery and Cafe in Cambridge, MA. Sortun, a James Beard “Best Chef in the Northeast” for Oleana restaurant in Cambridge, and Kilpatrick, who was named “Best Pastry Chef” by Boston magazine, showcase 100 recipes of both sweet and savory offerings at their popular modern Middle Eastern cafe.

Try your hand at everything from “Date Orange Brioche Tart” to “Persian-Style Carrots and Black-Eyed Peas” to “Apricot Halawa With White Chocolate Ganache.”

“Sofra” is Turkish for “picnic.” And these cookies are perfect for taking along to any Memorial Day backyard bash and beyond.

Just know that you have to make the dough at least three hours ahead to allow it to chill in the fridge before baking. These cookies are just butter, sugar, flour, salt, and tahini. The cookies get rolled in toasted sesame seeds before baking, giving them a crunchy rim.

Make the dough ahead of time because it needs to chill before baking.

Make the dough ahead of time because it needs to chill before baking.

Although the recipe says they make two dozen, I found that I got three dozen from it.

These cookies would be lovely alongside mint tea or minty lemonade. They’re perfect for when you want a little treat that’s quite nutty tasting and just barely sweet.

Tahini Shortbread Cookies

(Makes 2 to 3 dozen)

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup tahini (see Cook’s Note)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds


Lightly flour a work surface.

Combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and tahini in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until the dough is smooth.

Transfer the dough to the prepared work surface. Divide the dough in half and knead until smooth. Roll each piece of dough into a log approximately 1 inch in diameter.

Spread 1/4 cup sesame seeds onto a plate. Roll each log in the sesame seeds, coating the log completely. Wrap each log tightly in parchment paper, twisting each end. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Slice the logs into 1/4-inch-thick coins and place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake until firm around the edges and not colored, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Cook’s Note: Sometimes tahini has a layer of oil that separates, so be sure to incorporate all the oil into the paste before measuring to prevent this dough from being too crumbly. If there is a visible layer of oil on top, it is easier to combine by pouring the contents of hte jar out and stirring to combine. It is especially important in this recipe that the oil is fully incorporated or your cookie will not come together.

Adapted from “Soframiz” by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick


More Recipes Using Tahini: Anthony Bourdain’s Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame


And: Hummus with White Miso


And: Maple Mustard and Tahini Glazed Carrots

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